How to Handle Your First Homeschool Robotics Curriculum

How to Handle Your First Homeschool Robotics Curriculum

     Homeschool parents might ask themselves, “why it is important for me to incorporate computer science or robotics into my child’s homeschool curriculum?” After all, as of now, only about 40% of elementary and middle schools teach programming to students. Parents might be nervous about adding a computer science course because they don’t feel qualified to teach topics which aren’t already a part of their chosen curriculum, but this should not stop students from joining the STEM movement. Plenty of resources that do not require prior knowledge about computer science can be found online.

 

     Robotics is the perfect way to teach kids computer science. They can be exposed to a myriad of topics during a single robotics project including design, coding, engineering, mathematics, computer logic, and critical thinking, while also incorporating creative thinking and entertainment into an educational experience.

Planning is Key

     When it comes to making a robotics homeschool curriculum, planning is key. There are many factors to take into consideration, such as which grade levels or ages you need accommodate, if you want to take an involved or self-guided approach and if the student has any prior computer science knowledge. You might want to consider an intro to computer science and technology unit if your students have never been exposed to these topics, simply to learn the vocabulary to speak confidently about computers, programming, and robots.  

     This decision might also rely on the resources available to your homeschoolers. Will you be teaching one child, or will your children be able to work in pairs or teams? Do you want your kids to start off learning a low or high-level programming language? Will there be multiple students working on one computer, or will every student have their own? If multiple students are available to work in teams, they can be divided up into managers, engineers, designers, programmers, structural testers, and switch roles every project.

Where to Start

     A great place to start if your student has no prior computer science experience is unplugged activities. These are no computer needed activities to teach kids the basics of computer science topics in a memorable, interactive way. This is a great way to solidify more some of the abstract concepts of computer science in your student’s mind, and they work especially well for elementary schoolers. Unplugged lesson plans can be found online on an abundance of topics, such as cyber security, networks, programming, compiling, and binary code. Most resources online for unplugged activities are meant for classrooms, but they can be easily adapted to fit your home school’s needs, and the great thing is most of the materials needed for these activities can already be found around the house, such as paper, markers, cups, and string.

     If your student does have prior computer science knowledge, you can try a robot simulator online, like http://www.robotbasic.org/. This particular simulator has over 800 commands and functions that students can explore. These are a great introduction to programming a robot and could be right for homeschools who want to try out robotics without any initial investment, but ultimately purchasing a robotics kit will benefit your student greatly. Being able to attach sensors to ports and design a physical robot will be what sets your students interest in robotics apart from others. The RoboTerra kit is especially good for homeschool students seeing as it’s made to teach kids their first programming language through engaging activities, but can also be used in a free coding mode to let your student’s creative juices flow. It not only teaches programming, but also teaches basic structural engineering concepts that will be helpful to your students when they decide to design their first robot on their own.

Involvement Outside of the Classroom

     Other ways to get you child involved in robotics outside of a general homeschool curriculum include doing a robotics 4-H project, participating in coding or robotics competitions, doing an Hour of Code event (either hosted by yourself or tag along to one in your community), and doing Computer Science Education Week activities.

     Overall, robotics is the perfect hands on, kinesthetic learning approach to get your homeschool students involved in the sciences. Robots aren’t just the life-like machines we portray them as in TV and movies; they are all around us doing all kinds of unique jobs. Ask your home school students to name all of the robots in your home, and they will be amazed at how many they can come up with, as a robot is simply a machine capable of carrying out series of complex actions. Ultimately, unplugged activities to teach basic computer science concepts, a robotics kit to teach basic coding and engineering, and getting your child involved in robotics outside of the home school classroom are essential to creating your first robotics home school curriculum.

Derek Capohomeschool, robotics